At 8 a.m. EDT Monday a door will open into this country's most bitter moment in history when the $103 million Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park opens for business.
The culmination of more than a decade of planning, the visitor center was relocated away from the previous center, a small facility that stood on ground long considered sacred for the Civil War battle that raged there in early July 1863. Designed to fit into the surrounding Pennsylvania countryside, the center that resembles to some degree just another red barn pays homage to the soldiers who died at Gettysburg while at the same time delving into the conflict that nearly tore this country apart.
This from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
It will house 300,000 artifacts and 700,000 archival documents. Only about 7 percent of the collection will be exhibited, but the items "will be displayed in context," Gettysburg Superintendent John Latschar said. "The old museum had racks of weapons, but they didn't teach anything."
Among the featured treasures: Robert E. Lee's camp desk, a door from abolitionist John Brown's jail cell in Harpers Ferry, and a bullet-scarred, pocket-size Manual of the Christian Soldier, carried at Gettysburg by John Cassidy of the 69th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The bullet that passed through the book killed Cassidy during Pickett's Charge up Cemetery Ridge on July 3, the climactic action in the battle.
For more of the newspaper's story on the museum, click here.
Now, while the famed "cyclorama" that captured Pickett's Charge up Cemetery Ridge won't be on display until this fall, pick up the April 14 edition of Newsweek and you'll be able to read about the $12 million restoration of Paul Philippoteaux's 1884 immense painting of that fateful battle.
Much work remains to be done, Newsweek reports. But even partially restored, the painting seethes with life -- and death. This is no mindless celebration of war but a balancing act of horror and heroism. Philippoteaux stared straight into the face of battle, and he didn't flinch.
For an interesting video on cycloramas in general and the Gettysburg cyclorama specifically, check out Newsweek's short video on the subject. Be sure to click the tiny box in the lower righthand corner to enlarge the screen on your monitor.